Lakers’ predicament

Lakers’ predicament

The Lakers’ locker room was a picture of confidence following their second victory in just as many games, never mind that they actually just climbed back to .500 with the development. In large measure, it was because they showed their capacity to keep highly regarded opposition at bay. Versus the Thunder, second in the extremely competitive West, they managed to stay steady in a close contest from the get-go. Meanwhile, they turned a slim halftime lead into a blowout with a strong third quarter push against the Mavericks.

That the triumphs featured a First Five boasting of more offense in both cases was, perhaps, fortuitous. Head coach Darvin Ham, with seeming favorite Cam Reddish sidelined due to injury, had to turn to starter-turned-reserve D’Angelo Russell for help, and he promptly delivered. If nothing else, his playmaking and scoring prowess provided a more balanced attack that lessened the burden on LeBron James and Anthony Davis to do just about everything on the court. And while he has been pilloried for his on-ball coverage, it bears noting that the increase in his playing time hasn’t exactly hurt the Lakers on defense.

Lest there be an impression that the Lakers are already out of the woods, the bottom line remains. For all the strides they’re supposed to have made, they’re still a mere 10th in conference standings. And because they’ve been relying so much on Davis and James (whose bodies have been relatively brittle in recent memory), there’s a very real danger that they’ve already peaked, and that an unexpected absence from either or both deeper into the season would keep them out of the playoffs.

Which is why not a few quarters continue to believe the Lakers need a fresh infusion of talent heading into the trade deadline, not unlike the way they made significant strides after a series of personnel movements last year. The flipside, of course, is that too much tinkering can lead to unwanted uncertainty. Which direction should they go in order to make the best of Davis’ and James’ exertions? How many pieces do they want and, at the same time, need to let go of before they can say they’re genuinely closer to the Larry O’Brien Trophy? The answers will determine their ultimate fate.


Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and human resources management, corporate communications, and business development.